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Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez Book

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Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez Book Read Online And Epub File Download

Overview: A blazing talent debuts with the tale of a status-driven wedding planner grappling with her social ambitions, absent mother, and Puerto Rican roots, all in the wake of Hurricane Maria

It's 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro "Prieto" Acevedo, are bold-faced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn while Olga is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan's powerbrokers.

Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy. Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1%, but she can't seem to find her own...until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets...

Twenty-seven years ago, their mother, Blanca, a Young Lord-turned-radical, abandoned her children to advance a militant political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives.

Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico's history, Olga Dies Dreaming is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife and the very notion of the American dream--all while asking what it really means to weather a storm. 

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez  Book Read Online And Epub File Download More Ebooks Every Category For Go Ebooks Libaray Online Website.

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez Book Read Online Chapter One


The telltale sign that you are at the wedding of a rich person is the napkins. At the not-rich person’s wedding, should a waiter spill water or wine or a mixed drink of well liquor onto the napkin-covered lap of a guest, the beverage would bead up and roll off the cheap square of commercially laundered polyblend fabric, down the guest’s legs, eventually pooling on the hideous, overly busy patterned carpet designed and chosen specifically to mask these such stains. At the rich person’s wedding, however, the napkins are made of a European linen fine enough for a Tom Wolfe suit, hand-pressed into smooth order and trimmed with a gracious hemstitch border. Should the waiter spill any of the luxury bottled water, vintage wine, or custom-crafted cocktails designed by a mixologist for the occasion, the napkin would, dutifully, absorb any moisture before the incident could irritate a couture-clad guest. Of course, at the rich person’s wedding the waitstaff don’t spill things; they have been separated and elevated from their more slovenly, less-coordinated brethren in a natural selection process of the service industry that judges on appearance, gait, and inherent knowledge of which side to serve from and which to clear. The rich person’s wedding also never features hideous carpet. Not because the venue or locale might not have had one, but because they had the money to cover it over. And not necessarily just with another nicer, more tasteful carpet, but with hardwood flooring, black and white Havana-inspired tiles, or even actual, natural grass. These, though, were the more obvious markers of wealth at a milestone life celebration for the rich person, and while Olga Isabel Acevedo’s job required her to worry about all of these elements and more, the present moment found her primarily concerned with the napkins. Mainly, how she could steal them when the party was over.

“Carlos!” she called out to the authoritative-looking waiter who was leading the caterer’s setup team. “Carlos, let’s talk about the napkins.” He eagerly made his way over, followed by three of his other black-clad compatriots.

The rich person’s wedding not only had better napkins, it had elaborate plans for them as well. They were manipulated into intricately folded shapes and wrapped around lavishly printed menus or adorned with anything ranging from single-stemmed flowers to braided ribbon to—on one occasion, of which Olga was particularly proud—a leather band burnished by a miniature branding iron. (The groom: a fourth-generation cattle rancher.) Olga demonstrated a complex pleating pattern, which was then placed on a diagonal across the display plate, with a place card then set atop that.

“Now Carlos, it’s critical—critical—that the napkins be placed at exactly thirty-degree angles from what would be twelve o’clock on the plate, and even more critical that the place card be set parallel and not perpendicular to that angle. The mother of the bride said she might do some spot checking with her protractor, and after a year of working with this woman, I’d say odds are high that she actually does it.”

Carlos nodded with understanding, almost as if he knew that the mother of the bride had an advanced degree in geometry that had been gathering dust for the past thirty years while she reared her brood and supported the career of her automobile CEO husband, and that she had chosen to channel her intellectual frustrations into the anal-retentive micromanagement of her eldest daughter’s wedding. Of course, Carlos knew none of this, but, having been in the business for decades, he didn’t need the specifics to understand the importance of executing the task at hand with precision. (The wedding of a rich person also had, at least for the workers involved, the looming possibility of litigation hovering in the near future. Not-rich people’s events had forgettable glitches. Gaffes to the ultra-wealthy were unforgivable grievances that only the courts could remedy. A recent tale of a florist in fiscal ruin because she substituted an Ecuadorian rose for an English one after her shipment was stuck in customs had struck a nerve. Everyone, from the delivery guy to the wedding officiant, was on their toes.)

“Now listen,” Olga continued, “these were custom made just for the wedding, and the bride wants to have them for her house—”

“What’s she gonna do with three hundred napkins?” one of the waiters interjected. He was clearly new.

“Six hundred, actually,” Olga offered. “Always good to have extras, right?” The staff laughed. “She claims they’ll be heirlooms. Point is, we need to be sure that we keep these separate from the rented linens at the end of the night; got it?”

The waiters collectively nodded and, like a colony of ants given orders from their queen, ran off to execute the said napkin plan. Olga did some mental math. It would take six pairs of hands another four hours to create an optic that the guests would undo in seconds with the flick of a wrist—290 guests, to be exact. Barring a crazy incident—some overgrown frat boy spraying the bridesmaids with champagne, say, or a drunken guest knocking over the croquembouche display—they should end the night with between 150 and 175 brand-new beautiful linen hemstitch napkins that she could take for her cousin Mabel to use at her wedding that fall.

Olga hated her cousin Mabel.

Of course, it hadn’t always been this way. Yes, Mabel had been a loudmouth girl who developed into a loudmouth, know-it-all woman, but despite this they had been, in their youth, quite close. Slowly, though, a rift had formed and expanded. Then, last year, at age thirty-nine, Mabel was concurrently promoted to mid-level management at Con Edison and proposed to by her long-term boyfriend. The combination rendered her insufferable. Olga was only a year or so older, and for the entirety of their lives Mabel had been in a one-sided competition with her where action of any sort in Olga’s life was interpreted by Mabel as a sign of aggression and met with a “So, you think you’re better than me, huh?” Truth be told, for most of their lives, using a traditional American metric for measuring success, Olga was better than Mabel. Olga had left Sunset Park, gone to a fancy college, started her business, had been featured in magazines and on TV, had traveled the world, and gone to dinners costlier than one of Mabel’s paychecks. But now, with this engagement, Mabel was going to achieve something Olga never had: being a bride. Never mind that Olga bristled at the idea of third dates, let alone marriage. To Mabel, in this one arena, she had finally won, and she was not about to let her victory go unnoticed. On Christmas Eve, drunk on coquito, she waved her engagement ring in Olga’s face repeatedly, saying, “Julio got it from Jared’s, bitch, what did you get? That’s right, nothing.” At the bridal shower that her family pressured her to host because “she’s the one with all the party hookups,” Mabel gave a special toast to her “cousin Olga, who can help the brides, she just can’t get a groom.”

Olga had taken this in stride. Primarily because if finding someone like Julio to be tied to for all eternity was the one contest she would lose to Mabel, then she had chosen well. She was equally placated knowing that, when the time was right, she would think of the perfect fuck-you gesture to take just a bit of wind out of Mabel’s sails on her wedding day. Just the right little something to be the pebble in her shoe when she reflected on the day. It was during her sixth meeting with Mrs. Henderson, the mother of today’s bride, specifically about the topic of napkins, when the idea came to her and she was immediately filled with delight, knowing that she could strike two birds with one tiny stone.

From the beginning, Olga knew the napkins were going to be the “thing” with this event. At every first meeting with a client there was one comment casually uttered that Olga filed in her mental Rolodex, knowing that, in several months’ time, she would spend hours or even collective days dealing with what had been a seemingly innocuous statement or question. So it was when Mrs. Henderson and her daughter came in the first time and, just as they were about to sign Olga’s pricey contract, Mrs. Henderson exclaimed, “We didn’t speak about one of the most important things! The napkins! I do hate when they leave lint on your gown.” Olga agreed immediately and waxed on about that and a number of other nuanced considerations regarding table linens. Within moments, the paperwork was signed, and Mrs. Henderson was phoning their “money person” to deal with the matter of getting Olga her not-insignificant deposit payment. With her one comment about lint, Mrs. Henderson had revealed herself to be, at best, neurotic and, at worst, crazy. Olga had only quoted them her fee for normal rich people. Anxiety consumed her when she realized she had not charged them nearly enough.

She had not been wrong. Mrs. Henderson’s daughter, the bride, was a forgettable girl marrying a forgettable guy. They both, wisely, allowed Mrs. Henderson to do whatever she wanted with the wedding, knowing that if she was satiated, Mr. Henderson was far more likely to give them the cash they needed to purchase their own place in Bridgehampton. Yet even with the bride and groom largely absent, Mrs. Henderson had kept Olga and her staff’s hands full, mainly with the aforementioned napkins. What would they be made of? How wide would the hemstitch be? How would they be folded? What about the cocktail napkins? What about the hand towels in the bathroom? Was a white napkin rude? Did the same rules apply to napkins as to guests about wearing white at a wedding? Should they switch the order to ivory? Was that same quality of linen even available in ivory? Should they add in a pop of color? What would people say about a blue napkin? Would that be good luck? Would that leave lint?

In the end, she settled on a standard white linen hemstitch napkin, which she insisted be custom made for the occasion so that “the children can have them as heirlooms.” Olga easily obliged, knowing that they would cost her $7 apiece to have made by a Dominican woman she knew in Washington Heights and that she could very easily charge the client $30 a napkin, attribute the cost to Mrs. Henderson’s exquisite taste in fabrics, and pocket the difference. Of course, even a seasoned professional like Olga could never have predicted that Mrs. Henderson’s neurosis about the napkins would escalate to the degree that it did. Fear that her guests would, at any point, be forced to use a soiled napkin gripped her. Gradually, she increased her original order of three hundred napkins until eventually she doubled it. Of course, Olga knew there was simply no fathomable way that her guests could possibly go through this many napkins. She also knew that telling Mrs. Henderson that her fear was irrational? Well, that was pointless. Instead, Olga assured her that such a degree of thoughtfulness was the sign of a truly considerate hostess, while silently delighting in the knowledge that she’d concurrently figured out the perfect touch for Mabel’s big day while also earning a few extra thousand on this job.

Olga did not see this as a theft as much as an equalization of resources: Mrs. Henderson had aggressively accumulated too much of something while her family had acutely too little. At the Henderson wedding, despite all the time and energy spent discussing, procuring, pleating, and angling these napkins, they would go unnoticed. But at Mabel’s, like a black Chanel suit in a sea of knockoff Hervé Léger bandage dresses, they would stop people in their tracks. “¡Qué elegante!” she could hear her Titi Lola saying. She could picture her Tío Richie holding two of them over his chest and saying, “Hey, how many do you think I’d need to make a guayabera?” There would be countless cousins uttering, simply, “Classy,” as they thumbed the fabric between their fingers. This was the least Olga could do, she felt. Why shouldn’t her family get to know the feeling of imported Belgian flax against their laps? Because Mabel’s father was a janitor? Because that was the job he could get after he dropped out of high school? Because he dropped out mainly because he was dyslexic? A disorder that the family only learned of, mind you, when one of his grandchildren was diagnosed with it at school and Tío JoJo, to comfort the child, said, “It’s okay, mijo, I’ve seen the letters backwards my whole life, and I’ve been okay.” Her family should have to wipe their mouths with $3 polyester rags because Tío JoJo’s teachers were too fucking lazy to ask why he struggled with reading? Because no one blinked at another dumb Puerto Rican dropping out of a shitty public high school? Fuck that.

Also, it was doubtless that her family would attribute this elegant touch to Olga, and that would absolutely kill Mabel. Titi Lola, Tío Richie, Tío JoJo, all of them would immediately know that this was something only Olga would think to do. After the cousins said the word “classy,” then they would say, “Olga.” That was just the way it was in her family. This was her role.

“Meegan,” Olga called out to her assistant, who was busy sorting through seating arrangements. “Meegan, at the end of the night, get the soiled napkins to the laundry service and have them messengered to Mrs. Henderson first thing Monday. Take the extras back to the office.”

“Wait. Aren’t we sending those, too?”

“Nope.” Olga knew what was coming next.

“But she paid for those.”

“She did.”

“So, if you take something that she paid for, isn’t that…?”

“Isn’t it what, Meegan? Because what I know I’m doing is executing our clients’ wishes. Mrs. Henderson wants the napkins used at her daughter’s wedding to pass on to her someday grandchildren. We are sending those. We are not sending her the hundred or so napkins that will sit in a box in the back of the kitchen, unused, for the rest of the night. Not only is that not what she asked for, but ask yourself why, after she is delighted with the entire thing, we would advertise to her that we allowed her to wastefully indulge in such an irrational expenditure?”

Meegan was about to say something and then paused. The suspiciousness in her eyes faded and a smile came over her face.

“This is why you are the best. You are so right. I wouldn’t have thought of it that way, but you’re right. This is why I begged my mom to get me this job.”

Meegan was the most effective assistant that Olga had had in a long time. She was also the most annoying, having come herself from linen napkin stock. Her mother, a client of Olga’s, hadn’t so much asked her to give Meegan a job as threatened to take her business elsewhere if Olga didn’t. Yet, this was not what grated on Olga. No, what bugged Olga was Meegan’s insistent application of kindergarten ethics to every situation and her genuine desire to be around weddings. Indeed, while the former quality had the greatest potential to cause trouble for Olga, it was the latter that incensed her the most. It would be easy to enjoy this profession, Olga felt, if turning a profit weren’t of concern.

Eager to move on, Olga changed the subject. “When does Jan get here? I want to go through the timeline for tonight.”

“He’s not coming,” Meegan said sheepishly. “They are sending Marco instead.”

To handle the mental minutiae of her job and mitigate risk of complaint, Olga, like many in her profession, had established a reliable stable of vendors—caterers, bakers, and the like—on whom she could rely to execute at the scale and level that her clientele demanded. From this roster, after more than a decade in business, she had a list of preferred staffers whom she would request. Jan, the best floor captain for one of the finest caterers in the city, was on her frequent rotation. He was, in many respects, her emotional security blanket for her toughest jobs. His elegant appearance, soothing demeanor, and unplaceable European accent pleased her clients in the front of the house. His first-generation American work ethic coupled with a robust supply of dirty Polish jokes pleased her team in the back of the house. She felt a panic at the thought of facing Mrs. Henderson’s protractor without him.

“What? But I specifically asked for Jan. Marco is fine, but if I ask for Jan, I want Jan here. What reason did they give?”

Meegan cowered. “I actually didn’t ask.”

Olga needn’t say anything, her silent turn on her heel enough to let Meegan know that that was not the right answer. She took out her phone and texted Jan to ask why he was abandoning her and then she dialed Carol, the owner of the catering company, to register her complaint.

“Carol,” she spoke loudly into the phone, to set an example to all the other vendors readying the hotel ballroom for the festivities. “With all the business that I throw your way, I expect you to accommodate my fucking staff requests and at the very least give a bitch a call if you’re going to make a change like this. I really—”

But she had been cut off by Carol’s sobbing. It was all so sudden, she said. Olga dropped the phone. She couldn’t deal with this now. Meegan, sensing something was wrong, was just standing in front of her, with her stupid, naïve, eager face.

“Jan isn’t coming to work because Jan is dead.” 

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